MP Alex Chalk slams 'wholly inappropriate' plans to open strip club for Cheltenham Festival

Among those against the proposals is justice secretary and Cheltenham MP Alex Chalk. Credit: PA

MP Alex Chalk has slammed plans to allow a strip club to open during race events in Cheltenham - calling them "wholly inappropriate".

Red Apple Associates Ltd wants permission to run a sexual entertainment venue at Jessop House, in Cheltenham, during the Cheltenham Festival.

The company, which operates as Eroticats, also wants permission to open the strip club during other race events in Cheltenham throughout the year.

More than 35 people have objected to the proposals and 49 letters were sent in support of the scheme.

The venue used to be based at 2 Pigs in Church Street but opened for race week at Jessop House, in Cambray Place, earlier this year.

The previous licence is due to expire on 6 February 2024 and a new application to vary it has been submitted to Cheltenham Borough Council.

Among those against the proposals is Justice Secretary and Cheltenham MP Alex Chalk. He is urging Cheltenham Borough Council to refuse the application.

"Locating a sexual entertainment venue near to residential properties where children can be expected to come and go would be wholly inappropriate," Mr Chalk said.

He added: "Second, the venue is sited near properties which are sensitive for religious purposes - specifically Cambray Baptist Church.

"The Church holds various activities throughout the week corresponding to times at which the application has been requested.

"By way of example, youth group activities take place on Friday evenings, during the proposed period of operation at this licence. To have young people walking past a functioning sexual entertainment venue is clearly wrong."

The Nelson Trust, which helps women who have often turned to sex, drugs, drink or crime, because of traumatic childhood experiences, has also objected to the licence.

In a written statement to the council, the trust said it "emphatically" opposes the proposals.

It said: "Our objection to this application is based on years of frontline professional experience supporting women involved in the sex trade.

"There are strong links between lap dancing and selling sex, with a UK Home Office report finding that the majority of lap dancers also sell sex. The longer a woman has been stripping, the more likely it is she will be selling sex."

Red Apple Associates Ltd want permission to run a sexual entertainment venue after race events at Cheltenham Racecourse. Credit: PA

However, an unnamed performer said they had worked for Eroticats for many years and fully support the event.

"I've worked all over the country and would say that Eroticats is the most organised, safe and enjoyable company to work with - second to none," they said.

"Performers are well looked after by myself and all of the team which is why they continue to return year after year.

"Without licensed venues it removes that added layer of safety and reassurance that everything is above board and regulated.

"I would like to say that as dancers we are often judged and portrayed in and by the media, we are being spoken for and not to enough and we feel like our voices don't matter when ultimately, when it comes to welfare, our safety, our choices in how we earn our income, ours should be the only ones that matter."

Cheltenham Borough Council's licensing sub-committee is due to consider the proposals on 18 December.

If granted, the proposals will allow the venue to open from 6pm to 5am on the Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday of Cheltenham Festival week as well as from 8am until 5am on the Saturday.

Credit: Carmelo Garcia, Local Democracy Reporting Service.